Mazda MX-5 2.0 review – still as sharp as a surgeon’s scapel

Mazda MX-5 2.0 review – still as sharp as a surgeon’s scapel
Mazda MX-5 2.0 review – still as sharp as a surgeon’s scapel

I’d have sold a kidney for a Mazda MX-5 when I was 17 except, in those days before the dark web, I didn’t know where to start.

Nowadays my budget could probably stretch to a ratty second-hand model or a PCP deal with a punishingly low mileage cap but, of course, a two-seat roadster is completely useless for a grown adult with kids to ferry around.

It’s still bloody good fun to zip around in for a week or two – as I was reminded recently when Mazda dropped off a demonstrator for me to test.

Mazda MX-5

Mazda MX-5 GT Sport Nav+

Price: £25,795 (£26,585 as driven)
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol
Power: 181bhp
Torque: 151lb/ft
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Top speed: 136mph
0-62mph: 6.5 seconds
Economy: 40.9mpg combined
CO2 emissions: 156g/km

I drove the hard-top RF model last year but this year’s test car was the more traditional soft-top version and had the larger, 181bhp 2.0-litre engine as opposed to the 130bhp 1.5-litre model I drove previously.

That means an improved, 6.5-second, nought to 62 time and an extra 10mph added to the top speed compared with the smaller-engined car.

Like the 1.5-litre car, you need to rev the 2.0-litre MX5 close to the redline in order to get the most out of it. Even with the larger powerplant the MX-5 is a car built with a focus on exhilarating handling rather than out and out speed, but you do get more power in the mid-range than you do in the smaller car.

It makes more noise than the 1.5-litre version while idling – a suitably throaty sounding rumble – but I actually preferred the noise from the smaller engine when revving. The six-speed manual gearbox is quite simply driving perfection though and while you can spec the RF model with an automatic gearbox I can’t imagine why you would unless you had to.

MX-5 has become a byword for great-handling sports car and when Mazda set out to design the original they took their inspiration from classic British models. Through the generations the 50:50 weight distribution and supple springs have remained a constant with the model and kept the car true to the original vision however much modern tech they cram into it.

Steering is pin sharp via an electrically-assisted rack and pinion set-up and the suspension is supple enough to be comfortable and controlled enough to be sporty. This is a car that’s supposed to be sporty and fun – not hardcore and Mazda have got it pretty close to being bang on.

I say pretty close, because our test car was the high-end GT Sport Nav+ model which meant it was equipped with sports suspension and Bilstein dampers. It’s firmer and still supple but I prefered the standard suspension which soaked up the bumps and potholes of the winter roads more effectively and allowed a little more body roll in the corners.

Mazda MX-5

The look and feel of the cabin is top notch and the sand leather seats and dash finish looks terrific in contrast to the ‘soul red crystal’ pearl metallic paint on our demonstrator. Cabin layout is logical – with the exception of the cupholders mounted to the rear bulkhead – and uncluttered but space is at a premium and if you’re taller than five feet 11 it’s going to be a squeeze.

It’s also very low, which adds to the go-kart feel while you’re driving, but even for my sprightly, five feet nine frame it was a challenge getting in and out.

Noise levels in the cabin are pretty good considering it’s a convertible, but there’s a noticeable rise in wind noise on the motorway in the soft-top compared with the RF model.

Mazda MX-5 interior

But that’s to be expected. You don’t buy a convertible roadster to be cocooned and insulated from the outside world.

You buy a two-seater roadster to have fun on the road and to put a smile on your face and at £25,795 – but starting at £22,335 – the MX-5 is one of the most cost-effective ways to do that in a new car.

Would I sell my kidney for one? Probably not until the kids have grown up but, after that, I might consider it.

Mazda MX-5

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